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February 24 CBA update: Players propose additional concessions to service time

Day four of no deal, deadline looming.

MLB: Contract Negotiations
Former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Andrew Miller, left, and Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, former MLB player Kevin Slowey and New York Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo arrive for MLB contract negotiations at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida on Feb. 23, 2022.

Four days straight of negotiations, with four left before Monday’s deadline. Then, we will suffer the wrath of MLB and its plan to cancel games and chip away at the 2022 season.

The league and union met for nearly four hours on Thursday, where the MLBPA made additional concessions, specifically focusing around service time manipulation and the draft lottery. As you can imagine, the player changes were minute, the owners haven’t budged, and there doesn’t seem to be any momentum going into Friday.

The players have long since relinquished their original January proposal that introduced an age-based free agency, keeping six years as the amount of big league service time needed to reach free agency.

To provide some background of service time manipulation, we can look at what happened with Kris Bryant and the Chicago Cubs back in 2015. In summary: KB was invited to spring training, performed exceptionally well, but was left off of the 2015 Opening Day roster. The Cubs knew if they kept him in Triple-A for about two weeks, it would be just long enough not to count as a “full season,” still giving the Cubs six full years of control. Yes, it was extremely bogus, especially since Bryant went on to win the NL Rookie of the Year. And of course, after KB challenged this in an arbitration hearing, MLB was deemed to have acted according to the current agreement (sigh, innocent), so MLBPA is working to prevent something like that from happening again.

(And, yeah, the White Sox have done this, too, most recently with Eloy Jiménez and Nick Madrigal.)

After dropping the age-based free agency request, the MLBPA focused on awarding service time based on award placement and top-performing players measured by WAR. The Athletic’s Evan Drellich laid out the main highlights from the meeting, summarized below:

Previous proposal to achieve a year of service time:

  • Top 5 ROY voting
  • Top 3 Rivera/Hoffman award
  • First & Second Team All-MLB

February 24 proposal:

  • Top 5 finish in WAR for catchers, infielders, and DH’s (reduced from Top 7)
  • Top 15 finish in WAR for outfielders and pitchers (reduced from Top 20)

The players also touched on “tanking” and even relented in those areas regarding potential penalties, and maintained their proposal of seven draft lottery picks. Some of the proposals from MLBPA this week have been pretty solid offers, and you can even make a strong case that they have low-balled themselves in some areas, but none of that will matter because there is still the nightmare that is the CBT — the biggest controversy between the two sides, and yet to be touched.

The players have continued to try to bargain and move the process along, but as ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported, the owners cut off the meetings and “had nothing to discuss.” Personally, this made me laugh out loud, because they actually have literally everything to discuss … with just four days left!

We go into Friday expecting the worst: Either nothing will be accomplished, or it will be an incremental change, at the same pace of the last two weeks. Players are frustrated, fans are frustrated — everyone just wants baseball to begin … except the owners.

MLB is going to need to back down somewhere in order for the CBA to even get remotely near to being final, but the question is how much money will they stand to lose to make their point?